Most days I make a sandwich for lunch, which I eat at my desk while reading the newspaper. And sometimes to accompany the sandwich I’ll nip downstairs to the 7-11 across the street for a fruit juice and a little fresh air.
I did so today, and around 12:30 I found myself, juice in hand, waiting to cross the street to go back to work and eat. An obviously Muslim couple were crossing the other way. Rather than waiting for the green man, they crossed when there was a gap in the traffic. Ah that’s nice, I thought, they can wear their preferred clothing without fear of retribution. They were smiling, too. Warm fuzzy multicultural thoughts swam around in my mind, frolicking about, splashing happily in the water of peaceful diversity.
The light turned green and I passed them. As I was about to go back into work, I happened to look up the street a little way, in the direction the couple had come from. The frolicking stopped, and my heart skipped a beat. Two big shopping bags were sitting by the bus stop, alone, unattended, merely a couple of metres from the building.
The building I work in is a tower block. Forty-something stories high, and the headquarters to one of the biggest companies in the country. Post-September 11, security has been noticeably tighter, not in an alarming gun-toting security guards Matrix I kind of way, but they are certainly more careful about checking IDs when going in.
The bags were just sitting there. The Muslim couple had been smiling, and they hadn’t waited for the traffic light to change. My brain ticked over as I walked a few more paces. The paranoia went up a few notches as I pondered what could be in the bags. No, surely not. The whole thing would be just way too clichéd.
Then I saw an old couple, standing in an alcove partially out of view, probably sheltering from the wind while waiting for their bus, about two metres from the bags. My paranoia mostly subsided, and I kept on walking, pondering the chain of world events that have led me to jump to the conclusion that a smiling couple in ethnic clothes are terrorists.
And yet in the back of my mind I considered nipping back down a little later to see if the old couple and their bags were gone.
After eating lunch, I did. And they were.